Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven

Agnes Gray by Anne Bronte
01. I can conceive few situations more harassing than that wherein, however you may long for success, however you may labour to fulfil your duty, your efforts are baffled and set at naught by those beneath you, and unjustly censured and misjudged by those above.

‘Albert Nobbs’ by George Moore
001. …for the feeling cannot help coming over us, perhaps over the biggest as over the smallest, that all our trouble is for nothing and can end in nothing.
002. Albert was inclined to believe that Hubert told his wife before [the marriage] — She
003. Albert became suddenly conscious that a change had come into her life: the show was the same–carrying plates and dishes upstairs and downstairs, and taking orders for drinks and cigars; but behind the show a new life was springing up–a life strangely personal and associated with the life without only in this much, that the life without was now a vassal state paying tribute to the life within.
004. A changing figure with wife was in Albert’s imagination, turning from fair to dark, from plump to slender, but capturing her imagination equally in all her changes; …

Alice in Wonderland Penguin Clothbound Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
001. ‘Come, there’s no use in crying like that!’ said Alice to herself rather sharply. ‘I advise you to leave off this minute!’ She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it), and sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes…
002. ‘If everybody minded their own business,’ the Duchess said, in a hoarse growl, ‘the world would go round a great deal faster than it does.’
003. ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘–so long as I get  somewhere ,’ added Alice as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if only you walk long enough.’
004. [The Duchess] ‘Be what you would seem to be’

Altar of the Dead

‘The Altar of the Dead’ by Henry James
001. He had perhaps not had more losses than most men, but he had counted his losses more; he hadn’t seen death more closely, but had in a manner felt it more deeply.
002. He had wondered of old, in some embarrassment, whether he had a religion; being very sure, and not a little content, that he hadn’t at all events the religion some of the people he had known wanted him to have. Gradually this question was straightened out for him: it became clear to him that the religion instilled by his earliest consciousness had been simply the religion of the Dead. … It answered his love of great offices, of a solemn and splendid ritual; for no shrine could be more bedecked and no ceremonial more stately than these to which his worship was attached.
003. He thought for a long time of how the closed eyes of dead women could still live—how they could open again, in a quiet lamplit room, long after they had looked their last. They had looks that survived—had them as great poets quoted lines. [Wordsworth poem]
004. To-day it all seemed to have occurred merely to the end that George Stransom should think of his as ‘Hague’ and measure exactly how much he himself could resemble a stone. He went cold, suddenly and horribly cold, to bed.
005. Even a loaded life might be easier when one had added a new necessity to it.
006. To the treatment of time the malady of life begins at a given moment to succumb; and these were doubtless the hours at which that truth most came home to him.
007. There were hours at which he almost caught himself wishing that certain of his friends would now die, that he might establish with them in this manner a connexion more charming than, as it happened, it was possible to enjoy with them in life. In regard to those from whom one was separated by the long curves of the globe such a connexion could only be an improvement: it brought them instantly within reach.
008. She had no colour, no sound, no fault…
009. The next morning in the midst of his work he quite suddenly and irrelevantly reflected that his impression of her, beginning so far back, was like a winding river that has at last reached the sea.
010. For long years he never knew her name, any more than she had ever pronounced his own; but it was not their names that mattered, it was only perfect practice and their common need.
011. They never knew—at least Stransom never knew—how they had learned to be sure about each other.
012. …shabby little houses, semi-detached but indissolubly united, were like married couples on bad terms.
013. A woman, when wronged, was always more wronged than a man, and there were conditions when the least she could have got off with was more than the most he could have to hear.
014. The fellow had only had to die for everything that was ugly in him to be washed out in a torrent.
015. When but jealousy could give a man that sore contentious wish for the detail of what would make him suffer?
016. This was no dim theological rescue, no boon of a contingent world; they were saved better than faith or works could save them, saved for the warm world they had shrunk from dying to, for actuality, for continuity, for the certainty of human remembrance.

Alva and Irva by Edward Carey
01. Perhaps this abandoned child and this half-orphan were instinctively drawn together for a profound yearning for absent people. Perhaps each immediately felt the want that surrounded the other, and instantly closed ranks in desperation for a whole.

Anthem by Ayn Rand
001. It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is base and evil. It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our own. And we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone.
002. It is dark here. The flame of the candle stands still in the air. Nothing moves in this tunnel save our [-hand-] {+hands+} on the paper. We are alone here under the earth. It is a fearful word, alone. The laws say that none among men may be alone, ever and at any time, for this is the great transgression and the root of all evil.
003. But we have broken many laws. And now there is nothing here save our one body, and it is strange to see only two legs stretched on the ground, and on the wall before us the shadow of our one head. The walls are cracked and water runs upon them in thin threads without sound, black and glistening as blood. We stole the candle from the larder of the Home of the Street Sweepers. We shall be sentenced to ten years in the Palace of Corrective Detention if it be discovered. But this matters not. It matters only that the light is precious and we should not waste it to write when we need it for that work which is our crime. Nothing matters save the work, our secret, our evil, our precious work. Still, we must also write, for–may the [-council-] {+Council+} have mercy upon us!–we wish to speak for once to no ears but our own.
004. we cannot change our bones nor our body. We were born with a curse. It has always driven us to thoughts which are forbidden. It has always given us wishes which men may not wish. We know that we are evil, but there is no will in us and no power to resist it. This is our wonder and our secret fear, that we know and do not resist.
005. We, Equality 7-2521, were not happy in those years in the Home of the Students. It was not that the learning was too hard for us. It was that the learning was too easy. This is a great sin, to be born with a head which is too quick. It is not good to be different from our brothers, but it is evil to be superior to them. The Teachers told us so, and they frowned when they looked upon us.
006. We think that there are mysteries in the [-sky,-] {+sky+} and [-under-] the water and in the plants which grow. But the Council of Scholars has said that there are no mysteries, and the Council of Scholars knows all things. And we learned much from our Teachers. We learned that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it, which causes the day and [-the-] night. We learned the names of all the winds which blow over the seas and push the sails of our great ships. We learned how to bleed men to cure them of all ailments.
007. International 4-8818 and we are friends. This is an evil thing to say, for it is a {+great+} transgression, the great Transgression of Preference, to love any among men better than the others, since we must love all men and all men are our friends. So International 4-8818 and we have never spoken of it. But we know. We know, when we look into each other’s eyes. And when we look thus without [-words,-] {+works,+} we both know other things also, strange things for which there are no words, and these things frighten us.
008. Rather shall we be evil with you than good with all our brothers.
009. We have learned things which are not in the scripts. We have solved {+the+} secrets of which the Scholars have no knowledge. We have come to see how great is the unexplored, and many lifetimes will not bring us to the end of our quest. [-But we wish no end to our quest.-] We wish nothing, save to be alone and to learn, and to feel as if with each day our sight were growing sharper than the hawk’s and clearer than rock crystal. Strange are the ways of evil.
010. And yet there is no shame in us and no regret. We say to ourselves that we are a wretch and a traitor. But we feel no burden upon our spirit and no fear in our heart. And it seems to us that our spirit is clear as a lake troubled by no eyes save those of the sun. And in our [-heart– strange-] {+heart–strange+} are the ways of [-evil!–in-] {+evil!– in+} our heart there is the first peace we have known in twenty years.
011. And there [-is-] {+it+} was that we saw Liberty 5-3000 walking along the furrows. Their body was straight and thin as a blade of iron. Their eyes were dark and hard and glowing, with no fear in them, no kindness and no guilt.
012. We do not know why we think of them. We [-do-] {+don+} not know why, when we think of them, we feel [-all-] of a sudden that the earth is good and that it is not a burden to live.
013. It is forbidden, not to be happy. For, as it has been explained to us, men are free and the earth belongs to them; and all things on earth belong to all men; and the will of all men together is good for all; and so all men must be happy.
014. And as we all undress at night, in the dim light of [-the-] candles, our brothers are silent, for they dare not speak the thoughts of their minds. For all must agree with all, and they cannot know if their thoughts are the thoughts of all, and so they fear to speak.
015. So much is still to be learned! So long a road lies before us, and what care we if we must travel it alone!
016. “What is not thought by all men cannot be true,” said Collective 0-0009.
017. If that which we have found is the corruption of solitude, then what can men wish for save corruption? If this is the great evil of being alone, then what is good and what is evil?
018. Everything which comes from the many is good. Everything which comes from one is evil.
019. Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds. I am not a sacrifice on their altars.
020. I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask none to live for me, nor do I live for any others. I covet no man’s soul, nor is my soul theirs to covet.
021. I am neither foe nor friend to my brothers, but such as each of them shall deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brothers must do more than to have been born. I do not grant my love without reason, nor to any chance passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love. But honor is a thing to be earned.
022. I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit, each man is alone. Let each man keep his temple untouched and undefiled. Then let him join hands with others if he wishes, but only beyond his holy threshold.
023. For the word “We” must never be spoken, save by one’s choice and as a second thought. This word must never be placed first within man’s soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth, the root of man’s torture by men, and [-of-] an unspeakable lie. The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.
024. This god, this one word: “I.”
025. I understood why the best in me had been my sins and my transgressions; and why I had never felt guilt in my sins. I understood that centuries of chains and lashes will not kill the spirit of man nor the sense of truth within him.
026. He took the light of the gods and [-he-] brought it to men, and he taught men to be gods. And he suffered for his deed as all bearers of light must suffer. His name was Prometheus.”
027. I shall rebuild the achievements of the past, and open the way to carry them further, the achievements which are open to me, but closed forever to my brothers, for their minds are shackled to the weakest and dullest [-ones-] among them.
028. There is nothing to take a man’s freedom away from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers.
029. At first, man was enslaved by the gods. But he broke their chains. [-The-] {+Then+} he was enslaved by the kings. But he broke their chains. He was enslaved by his birth, by his kin, by his race. But he broke their chains.
030. my home will become the capital of a world where each man will be free to exist for his own sake.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
01. …was everyone else really as alive as she was? … did her sister really matter to herself, was she as valuable to herself as Briony was? Was being Cecilia just as vivid an affair as being Briony? … Did everybody? If the answer was yes, then the world was unbearably complicated with two billion voices and everyone thinking they were unique when no one was. One could drown in irrelevance. But if the answer was no, then Briony was surrounded by machines, intelligent and pleasant enough on the outside, but lacking the bright and private inside feeling she had. This was sinister and lovely, as well as unlikely. For, though it offended her sense of order, she knew it was overwhelmingly probably that everyone else had thoughts like hers. She knows this, but only in a rather arid way; she didn’t really feel it.

‘The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table’ by Oliver Wendell Holmes
01. [Punsters] are like wanton boys that put coppers on the railroad tracks…their little trick may upset a freight train of conversation for the sake of a battered witticism.

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